The perils of distraction
The fog that envelopes Nigeria’s political and economic horizon today requires a certain luminance of the mind and sight to comprehend. It is a thicket through which only a Muhammadu Buhari, with the sharp-edged sword of integrity and super-clear vision, can cut. The attempts to blur that vision and blunt the sword have been and will be intense, but Nigeria can do without those distractions.
Ours is a country in trouble. The people are in real pains as they get little or no value for their given wealth. The level of poverty has never been higher and the army of the unemployed is swelling by the day, even as the nation chokes under the burden of debt; local and foreign.
The tragic irony which shames Nigerians is that few nations have anything near the warehouse of material resources available to Nigeria. But no nation has exhausted the store of harvested capital as mindlessly as Nigeria has done while laying others to waste, leaving us presently scraping the floor for anything resembling a grain of crumbs.
While this country is not alone in the battle for economic survival, our case is compounded by a leadership that seems to have shifted or has been compelled to shift focus from its core emergency mission to matters of ego or cheap vanity of personal glory.
Where politicking should have ended and real governance begun, many are still stuck in the rut of quest for offices. This has led to a situation in which the challenges before the nation appear ignored or intractable, while the ruling elite dissipate greater energy on selfish advancement.
As the conversation rages on how to save Nigeria’s economy and make it engender the greatest good for the greatest number of the people, let me reiterate my position that the notion of aridity of the ideas landscape needing a special massive irrigation is one big lie. It is a lie that insults the collective memory as well as wisdom of all Nigerians, who have been witnesses to and are repositories of publicly debated diverse ways of making Nigeria great. This notion, if anything, merely exposes a certain lack of capacity for bold actions on the part of the nation’s leadership. To those in command of the chariot of change, the ideas available for changing Nigeria’s story are so many and so readily available that the richness of the terrain borders on the soggy.
Held down, boots and all, in such a fertile ground therefore, the current leadership has no other tether than confusion and distraction.
Contrary to its pretensions to the high road or its affectation of a different mind-set that places the nation’s well-being above all else, the Muhammadu Buhari government is mired in the petty, the mundane, the primordial and has not been helped by divisions along those lines, with distractions over offices and positions.
And in no other sphere is this confusion as well as distraction more evident than President Buhari’s famed body language.
On one hand, he panders to the whims of the party or leaders on whose say-so he got his nomination and presidential seat by claiming to be neutral in all matters. On the other, he wants to assert himself as everyone’s man who is no one’s man. Not to talk of his own personal loyalty judgments, which is pitching ambition against ambition, friends against friends, godfathers against god-children, mini-party against mini-party, merit against primordial sentiments and, of course, the future of Nigeria against its present.
So, instead of harmony and iron-cast unity of purpose, unremitting sniping has been the signature of the administration, with everyone looking over his or her shoulder for another with a poisoned and jagged-edged knife.
Hence the narrative is not one of a band of leaders who are doing so much in the legislative arm, for example, or initiating so much in the executive branch, both arms of government under the control of the same party as they are. Rather, to paraphrase Bill Clinton at his first inaugural as President of the United States of America, who is up or who is down, who is in and who is out, has become the pre-occupation of the All Progressives Congress’ entire ruling class. The leading elements seem to have forgotten the people of Nigeria whose votes sent them into power in the first place.
Those in power and in offices, without shame, are too self-involved and status-conscious for the people at whose behest they hold their various stations or wield their influence to matter.
Their party-led government, therefore, is distracted by so many things, not the least being serious internal contradictions as exemplified by the open war between some of its leaders, culminating in trials, tribulations and accusations of persecution.
The result is that APC’s eyes are often off the ball of giving Nigerians the change they voted for and desperately need. And the kind of clarity of vision or purpose expected of a government like Muhammadu Buhari’s gets blurred by the persistent dust of intra-party battles for power.
This situation, no doubt, is a direct result of the fact that at the helm of the government is the typically Nigerian assemblage of extremely strange bedfellows. Or, as some would say, familiar felons! For who or where are the really beautiful ones in the drivers’ seats in the affairs of Nigeria?
Of course, a typical Nigerian political party in recent experiences at democracy is never known to be anything more than an association of men and women of different hues whose only binding principle is the absence of one. Which is why not many may be surprised that the APC is fast advertising itself as no better than the ousted Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, as it currently carries the self-inflicted image of just another convenient vehicle for grabbing power for no other purpose than wielding it for selfish ends.
This, of course, would not have mattered if Nigerians had not made such a huge investment of hope, trust and goodwill in that party, especially in its torch-bearer, President Muhammadu Leko Buhari, the disciplined man of integrity, who, they thought, would rise above any other consideration than that which is salutary to Nigeria.
While no one was fooled, given its origins, into believing it would be different from the hodgepodge which it was, Nigerians swallowed APC in the hope that it would cure some of the ills which afflict them, not cause them a massive bout of flu and regret as it currently threatens to do!
Nigerians are tired of the sniping in the administration and ruling party. They want results. Even the catch-all-the-thieves policy, such a hit with the people, is getting a bit worn, with appearances of bias, vindictiveness, no conviction and non-disclosure of retrieved loot.
President Buhari has enormous powers, which he can use for the good of the people of Nigeria. He is in a vantage position to strengthen Nigeria’s governance by ignoring other sentiments and institutionalising respect for the country’s different institutions. More importantly, he has enormous goodwill. He alone has enough moral capital to turn deaf ears to the distracting noise of politics and effect a laser-like focus on service to the people as well as a genuine fight against corruption.
Extra-ordinary times call for extra-ordinary measures. Unity of purpose, clarity of vision and bold ideas are what these times demand. With oil prices, though showing signs of improvement, still very low, the nation’s revenue intake has been so puny and the treasury can hardly support the kind of human and infrastructural development Nigeria needs today. It is a destination at which we have arrived on the vehicle of corruption.
Nigeria must therefore be rid of that menace if the country would ever get started on the journey to peace and prosperity. We must catch the thieves, by all means, bring them to justice and retrieve all they have looted. But that should be done within the context of due process and fairness, with no consideration for anyone and his ox being gored. To do less would be the greatest ammunition in the hands of the enemies of Nigeria, whose population in high places is best gauged by the exceptions countable on fingertips.
Meanwhile, Buhari, not the APC, has this point to prove: that he did not run for the Presidency so many times before finally winning the price only for the sake of being addressed as President; that he is out to create a record in history beyond being another military commander-in-chief who also succeeded in becoming an elected one; that he is not another politician up for manipulation or out to manipulate.
To prove this point, he should be reminded of the faith of Nigerians in his person in addition to their belief in his political party, however contrived, and shun all kinds of distractions currently assailing him.